The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

UK, 1957
79m 41s (UK – video), 82m 21s (UK – theatrical)
35mm, Warnercolor
mono, English

A British horror film directed by Terence Fisher. This was the first of the gothic horror to be made by Hammer Film Productions and the first of their Frankenstein films.

Plot Summary

Baron Victor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with the idea of creating an artificial human being, stitched together from the remains of the dead and then brought to life with electricity. After years of research, Frankenstein succeeds but the resulting creature is dangerously violent and is soon loose in the surrounding countryside…

Credits

* = uncredited

Crew
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Copyright MCMLVII [1957] Clarion Film Productions
A Hammer production
Executive Producer: Michael Carreras
Produced by: Anthony Hinds
Associate Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys
Production Manager: Don Weeks
Screenplay by: Jimmy Sangster
Based on the classic story by Mary W. Shelley
Assistant Director: Derek Whitehurst
Continuity: Doreen Soan
Director of Photography: Jack Asher
Camera Operator: Len Harris
Chief Electrician: Jack Curtis *
Editor: James Needs
Eastmancolour by Humphries Laboratories Ltd.
Music Composed by: James Bernard
Music Director: John Hollingsworth
Sound: W.H. May *
RCA Sound Recording
Costume Designer: Molly Arbuthnot *
Make-Up: Phil Leakey
Hair Stylist: Henry Montsash
Production Designer: Bernard Robinson
Art Director: Ted Marshall
Produced at Bray Studios
Stunt Co-ordinator/Stunt Double for Christopher Lee: Jock Easton *
Casting: Dorothy Holloway

Cast
Peter Cushing (Baron Victor Frankenstein)
Hazel Court (Elizabeth)
Robert Urquhart by permission of A.B.P.C. (Paul Krempe)
Christopher Lee as the Creature
Valerie Gaunt (Justine)
Melvyn Hayes (young Victor)
Paul Hardtmuth (Professor Bernstein)
Fred Johnson (Grandpa)
Noel Hood (Aunt Sophie)
Michael Mulcaster (warder)
Alex Gallier (priest)
Claude Kingston (little boy)
Andrew Leigh (burgomaster)
Ann Blake (wife)
Sally Walsh (Elizabeth as a child)
Middleton Woods (lecturer)
Raymond Ray (uncle)
Ernest Jay [undertaker – uncredited]
Raymond Rollett *
Bartlett Mullins [tramp – uncredited]
Eugene Leahy [second priest – uncredited]

Alternative Titles

Frankensteins Fluch – German title
La maschera di Frankenstein – Italian title

Sequels
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1966)
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

Extracts included in
100 Years of Horror (1996)
The Many Faces of Christopher Lee (1996)
Peter Cushing: A One-Way Ticket to Hollywood (1989)
The World of Hammer: The Curse of Frankenstein (1994)
The World of Hammer: Hammer Stars: Christopher Lee (1994)
The World of Hammer: Hammer Stars: Peter Cushing (1994)

Press

1957
The Cinema News and Property Gazette vol.88 no.7766 (1 May 1957) p.7
“New and comparatively faithful version of the Mary Shelley near-classic of a synthetic man-monster from a laboratory. Some ghastly detail to disturb the squeamish, but polished and imaginative production and excellent acting from Peter Cushing and supports. Sinister suspense aided by lighting effects and pleasant mounting to lend contrast to the sombre side. Excellent marrow-chiller with pulling power of the title. […] The tale’s modifications are not over-done, and the bubbling compounds and the giant clockwork of the laboratory are expertly manipulated; blood, dismemberment and grafting of hands, head and brain from the family tomb are given thrills by suggestion as much as by peeps of the gruesome. The use of a flashback frame for the narrative makes for a good finale of the man-maker being led to the guillotine.” – from a review by P.L.M.

Daily Film Renter no.7371 (1 May 1957) p.3
“Here we have all the macabre thrills and horrors any SF or thriller fan could possibly desire. Notably aiding in building up the tension are the performances of Peter Cushing, Robert Urquhart and Christopher Lee (who makes a truly pitiable thing out of the Creature), and the colour – which has been cleverly used to heighten the emotional atmosphere and to create a sense of Gothic period – as well as the scripting, direction and music. The “X” certificate is well merited! And there’s a hit of illicit passions on the side with the promising appearance of newcomer Valerie Gaunt as a sexy servant. In all, here’s a first-class box-office attraction of its kind which should coin a small fortune for showmen in the right sort of venue” – from a review (The new films) by F.J.

Kinematograph Weekly no.2594 (2 May 1957) p.18
“The picture leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination and the cutting down of he highwayman from the gibbet, the removal of the brain from te scientist deliberately killed by Frankenstein, the transplanting of eyeballs and the fashioning of the bits and pieces into the creature will turn the stoutest stomach. Peter Cushing acts with fanatical intensity as Frankenstein, Robert Urquhart has a sobering effect as Paul, Christopher Lee, although no Karloff or Lugosi, is cleverly made up as the gargoyle creature, and Hazel Court and Valerie Gaunt register in contrast as Elizabeth ad Justine. The sensational destruction of the creature and the final shot of Frankenstein under the shadow of the guillotine provide a fitting curtain.” – from an uncredited review

Variety 15 May 1957 p.22
“This British version of the classic shocker well deserves its horrific rating, and praise for its more subdued handling of the macabre story. The emphasis lies not so much on the uncontrollable blood lust of the created monster as on the gruesome, distasteful clinical details whereby the crazy scientist accumulates the odd organs with which to assemble the creature to which he finally exultantly gives life. As this is the first time the subject has been depicted in color, all the grim trappings are more vividly impressive. In its present form pic will seek its own audience level, and should prove highly profitable. […] Peter Cushing gets every inch of drama from the leading role, making almost believable the ambitious urge and diabolical accomplishment. Melvyn Hayes as the child skilfully conveys the ruthless self-possession of the embryo man. Robert Urquhart convincingly marks the change of character from the young tutor to the dedicated scientist who ultimately rebels, while Hazel Court has little to do but grace the bachelors’ table and express horror on her wedding eve when she ferrets out the dread secret and gets caught in the monster’s clutches. Valerie Gaunt is more vibrantly attractive as the Baron’s discarded mistress while Christopher Lee arouses more of pity than horror in his Interpretation of the creature. His death as a living torch plunging into a vat of acid is one of the most realistic of the spectacular highlights. Direction and camera work are of a high order.” – from a review by Clem

Motion Picture Herald vol.207 no.12 (22 June 1957) p.426
“After lean years of playing straight man to slapstick comedians, the monster-of-many-parts is, in this new British production, once again a creature to be reckoned with seriously within that highly specialized genre of romantic horror fiction. The Curse of Frankenstein may not be the best, or even one of the most exciting horror films ever made, but it is certainly one of the two or three most gory. […] The greater part of the picture is occupied with this sort of business, most of it explicit and a lot of it fairly shocking. What makes it palatable – to the non-sadist – is that it’s treated more of less in the Grand Guignol tradition of macabre humor. Baron Frankenstein’s activities are so far beyond belie that they eventually seem rather droll variations of ordinary human behaviour. James Sangster’s original screenplay, however, is short on suspense and mood.” – from a review (The product digest) by V.C.

Films and Filming vol.3 no.10 (July 1957) p.24
“No effort has been spared to make The Curse of Frankenstein an improvement on the original 1931, James Whale, film. Painstakingly detailed, intelligently written, beautifully photographed in Eastman colour, and – above all – set in period, where it belongs, this must be one of the most polished horror films ever made. Peter Cushing and Robert Urquhart give conscientious performances, though I do not believe them capable of bringing the necessary weight to this sort of melodrama. Cushing, in particular, is closer to Manningham in Gaslight than to the fanaticism of the bloody Baron. He is not quite a Rathbone. Nor is Christopher Lee a Karloff, for all the originality of his horrifying make-up. Director Terence Fisher must certainly be credited with bringing a completely fresh approach to this old shocker. Even so, he has missed the most important ingredient… atmosphere. This is a brilliant, bleak and beastly job; and I am truly sorry I cannot say I like it.” – from a review by Peter John Dyer

2005
Empire no.191 (May 2005) pp.70-71 (UK)
“Most mad science schemes are, well, mad, but Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein takes the Bavarian biscuit. Not only does he try to argue his way out of going to the guillotine by telling a story that implicates him in two other murders, but he gets a genius brain smashed (twice) before implanting it in the monster, unwisely keeps a big vat of acid around where anyone could fall into it, and ducks out of giving an answer when asked what the point of creating a monster is. None of his subsequent experiments work out any better.” from an illustrated article (The 10 Worst Movie Masterplans) by Kim Newman

References

Periodicals
The Cinema News and Property Gazette vol.88 no.7766 (1 May 1957) p.7 – credits, review (by P.L.M.)
Classic Television no.5 (June/July 1998) pp.10-25 – illustrated article (British Film: The Classic Television Top 100)
Daily Film Renter no.7371 (1 May 1957) p.3 – credits, review (The new films by F.J.)
Dark Terrors no.2 (March/April 1992) pp.26-27 – Illustrated article (Oakley Court, Windsor)
Dark Terrors no.3 (May/June 1992) pp.19-32 – Illustrated article (The Curse of Frankenstein)
Empire no.191 (May 2005) pp.70-71 – illustrated article (The 10 Worst Movie Masterplans by Kim Newman)
Fangoria no.219 January 2003 p.60 – DVD review (DVD Dungeon: The Curse of Frankenstein by Matthew Kiernan)
Film Review March 1998 pp.56-61 – Illustrated interviews with Christopher Lee, [[Melvyn Hayes, [[Jimmy Sangster and [[James Bernard (Call Sheet by Howard Maxford)
Films and Filming vol.3 no.10 (July 1957) p.24 – credits, review (by Peter John Dyer)
The House That Hammer Built no.1 (February 1997) pp.44-56 – Illustrated article (The Curse of Frankenstein)
The House That Hammer Built no.10 (October 1998) pp.91-106 – Illustrated article (* Terence Fisher)
Kine Weekly no.2594 (2 May 1957) p.18 – review
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.24 no.281 (June 1957) p.70 – credits, review
Motion Picture Herald vol.207 no.12 (22 June 1957) p.426 – review
Starburst no.336 (May 2006) pp.68-69 – illustrated article (Top 10 Sci-Fi Remakes)
Variety 15 May 1957 p.22 – credits, review (by Clem)

Books
The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.107-108 – illustrated credits, review
The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) p.166-167 – illustrated credits, review
The Charm of Evil: The Life and Films of Terence Fisher by Wheeler Winston Dixon pp.xi-xiv, 2, 4, 5, 142, 182, 220, 222, 223-264, 266, 269, 283, 292, 305, 342; 513-514 – notes; credits
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and Horror Cinema: A Filmography of Their 22 Collaborations by Mark A. Miller pp.42-70
Classic Horror Films and the Literature That Inspired Them by Ron Backer pp.18-22
A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series by Ken Hanke pp.181-185; 193
The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Films second edition by John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh pp.141-143 – credits, review (by D.B. [David Blakesley])
English Gothic by Jonathan Rigby pp.7, 22, 26, 30, 41-44, 45, 47, 49, 51, 53, 71, 75, 103, 110, 172, 186, 194, 208 – illustrated notes, review
The Films of Christopher Lee by Robert W. Pohle Jr and Douglas C. Hart pp.55-57
Hammer Complete: The films, the Personnel, the Company by Howard Maxford pp.158-166 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films by Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes 22-24; 178
The Hammer Vault by Marcus Hearn pp.14-15
A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer (Revised Edition) by Denis Meikle pp.12, 19, 25, 36, 37, 38-47, 90, 177, 133, 202 – notes, review
Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.74
It Came from 1957: A Critical Guide to the Year’s Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films by Rob Craig pp.138-141
The Liverpool Companion to World Science Fiction Film by Sonja Fritsche (ed.) pp.89-103 – article (Invaders, Launchpads, and Hybrids: The Importance of Transmediality in British Science Fiction Film in the 1950s by Derek Johnston)
Peter Cushing: The Gentle Man of Horror and His 91 Films by Deborah Del Vecchio and Tom Johnson pp.72-82 – illustrated credits, review
Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.83 – credits
Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester p.194-195
Terence Fisher by Peter Hutchings pp.2, 4, 5, 10, 33, 57, 81, 84-88, 89, 90, 93, 95, 100, 125 – notes
Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion by Paul Leggett pp.6-7, 15-18 – notes